Offseason Cheatsheet: Defensive backs

2 Comments

Offseason Cheatsheets continue with your Du Lac approved crib-sheet for the upcoming season. For more, check out the quarterbacks, running backs, tight ends and wide receivers.

POSITION OVERVIEW:

Heading into last season, the Irish felt good about their secondary. The Irish only needed to replace David Bruton, and a natural replacement was there with Harrison Smith, who had seen the field as an undersized outside linebacker. Returning after a year away from the football program was Darrin Walls, there to push fellow cornerbacks Robert Blanton, Raeshon McNeil, and Gary Gray. The Irish thought they had all the pieces in place needed for an elite secondary. They were obviously wrong. With a defense hellbent on pressuring the quarterback and failing to do so, the Irish defense struggled mightily against the pass, too often giving up the big play. Whether it was broken coverages or late reads, the secondary took a major step back, and gave up far too many career days to opposing quarterbacks. With safeties Sergio Brown and Kyle McCarthy graduated, the Irish will need to revamp the safety position, with Harrison Smith and Jamoris Slaughter the front-runners for the jobs. A return to the 3-4 defense, more zone coverage, and defensive backs coach Chuck Martin should all help a veteran group of defensive backs reach their potential.

ROSTER READING:

Short a program? Here’s every defensive back on the roster.

     No.    Name                      Yr.    Ht./Wt.       Hometown/High School
      2       Darrin Walls            Sr.    6-0/190     Pittsburgh, PA (Woodland Hills)
      4       Gary Gray               Sr.    5-11/190   Columbia, SC (Richland Northeast)
     12      Robert Blanton        Jr.    6-1/192     Matthews, NC (Butler)
     15      Dan McCarthy         Jr.    6-2/205     Youngstown, OH (Cardinal Mooney)
     17      Zeke Motta              So.   6-2/210     Vero Beach, FL (Vero Beach)
     21      Barry Gallup, Jr.      Sr.    5-11/190   Wellesley, MA (Belmont Hill)
     22      Harrison Smith        Sr.    6-2/214     Knoxville, TN (Knoxville Catholic)
     23      Lo Wood                  Fr.    5-10/178   Apopka, FL (Apopka)
     26      Jamoris Slaughter   Jr.     6-0/195     Stone Mountain, GA (Tucker)
     27      E.J. Banks               So.   5-11/182   Pittsburgh, PA (Montour)
     29      Michael Garcia        Sr.    6-2/195     Colorado Springs, CO (St. Mary’s)
     30      James Redshaw      Sr.    5-9/175     North Huntingdon, PA (Norwin)
     33      Chris Salvi               Jr.     5-10/180   Lake Forest, IL (Carmel Catholic)
     35      Andrew Plaska        Jr.     5-11/185    Zeeland, MI (Zeeland West)
     39      Ryan Sheehan        Sr.     5-10/177   Purcellville, VA (Loudown Valley)
     40      Thomas Smith         Sr.    6-1/215      Manchester, CT (East Catholic)
     42      Nick Lezynski          Sr.    5-9/180      Newtown, PA (Notre Dame HS)

KELLY ON DEFENSIVE BACKS

On Gray: “Gary Gray has to play big for us. Gary Gray is a guy that has not been consistent enough on a day-to-day basis. At the end of the day, you have Blanton and you’ve got Walls, and you’ve
got Gary Gray and those are the three guys that have experience. Other
than that, we are tapping into zero experience. So he hears it from me
every day. He has to pick up his play.”

On Smith: “Harrison probably has been the number one guy in terms of his
performance. His
play has been steady and consistent.”

On Motta: “He’s a good player. He’s done a great job for us. I can’t wait to see some of these guys play, including Zeke. He’s going to be running around all over the place.”

Chuck Martin on McCarthy: “McCarthy is a guy who we think is a pretty good football player.We don’t have a lot of numbers back there, but the four guys we have, we feel are capable of helping us win football games.

Martin on Gallup: “He’s done well since he’s been over there. He’s a tough kid. He’s quick. Obviously he’s drinking through a fire house right now. But he’s an older kid, so he’s like, ‘Hey, I’m going to go out there and battle and take every rep I can get and keep competing to see how I can help this football team.’ He’s excited and we’re excited so I think it’s a good fit.”

Martin on Wood: “We’re getting unbelievable consistent effort out of him… He is trying to do it right every single snap. His approach to the game is absolutely what a coach is looking for.”

Martin on three veteran cornerbacks: “If you don’t think R.J., Darrin Walls and Gary Gray are going to play all the football they would ever want in a million years and more, that’s what I’m trying to prepare them for because they’re going to be on special teams.”

CRYSTAL BALL:

Believe it or not, the secondary wasn’t as bad as they looked last year. If a football team commits to sending six players after the quarterback every snap and they don’t get there, it’s the secondary that looks bad, not the defensive line and linebackers that didn’t get the pressure. Regardless of fault, the secondary was dreadful and has a lot to prove this season, and defensive backs coach Chuck Martin has his work cut out for him, building back a group that’s confidence was shot last season. While depth is thin after some attrition, each position group has four solid players, and as long as they stay healthy, the defensive backfield won’t be anywhere near the liability it was last year.

POSITION STRENGTH:

B- It’s tough to give this group too good of a grade after rewatching most of last season, but the potential is there for the secondary to become an asset. Getting consistent play out of the safeties will be the key. 

Irish A-to-Z: Jalen Elliott

Jalen Elliott Irish 247
Photo courtesy of Irish 247 / Tom Loy
3 Comments

Don’t know Jalen Elliott yet? You will soon enough.

While the 3-star prospect didn’t land on any national lists of recruiting victories, Notre Dame’s coaching staff believes that they might have their next great strong safety on campus in the Virginia native.

While there are other prospects who are bigger, stronger and faster—and had better recruiting rankings and scholarship offers—Elliott stood out to the Irish staff when they got him on campus, turning Brian Kelly and company into major believers. Now it’s up to the young player to make his way up a depth chart that’s been restocked, finding a way into the mix with assumed starters Drue Tranquill and Max Redfield.

 

JALEN ELLIOTT
6′, 190 lbs.
Freshman, Safety

 

RECRUITING PROFILE

A consensus 3-star prospect with offers from Auburn, Georgia, Miami, North Carolina, Virginia and Virginia Tech. Two-time captain and state champion. Two-way starter as quarterback, cornerback and safety.

A 2015 first-team All-State 5A player. On the 2015 Richmond Times-Dispatch All-Region first team, MVP of 2015 Virginia High School All-Star game.

 

FUTURE POTENTIAL

Kelly may have tipped his hand when he glowed about Elliott in his Signing Day comments.

“Jalen Elliott competed like no player that I have seen since I’ve been coaching in a camp setting, and that’s over 25 years. His competitive spirit was unmatched,” Kelly said. “It was unparalleled in terms of I can’t remember a guy — maybe there was one guy that competed on the offensive line for me at Cincinnati in a camp that was similar, but this kid competed at every position at such a level that he was a can’t-miss guy for us in the recruiting process.”

There could be concerns about Elliott’s size—he doesn’t have prototype strong safety size or heft. But great safeties come in all shapes and sizes (Eric Weddle certainly doesn’t look like an All-Pro). That’s not to say that Elliott will have an All-American college career like Weddle did at Utah, but if he’s able to match his intellect with his competitive spirit, he’s playing the right position for a guy to make an immediate impact in South Bend.

 

CRYSTAL BALL

I’m buying the hype on Elliott. I think he’s my leading snap-earner on the defensive side of the ball for the freshman class, out-pacing position-mate Devin Studstill, who had spring practice to work his way into first-team reps with Max Redfield.

Versatility is a big reason I’m so high on Elliott. He’s a guy who can stay at safety if the Irish need to move Tranquill around—a preference of Brian VanGorder’s. He’s a potential nickel or dime entry if the Irish want to put more defensive backs on the field. He’s also good enough to get a look as a cornerback. And he’ll certainly be someone who can be counted on as a special teamer.

Opportunity is the other obvious reason to target Elliott as true freshman contributor. Notre Dame’s safety play needs improvement, and new blood might be the best option.

I’m hesitant to match stats with snaps, especially knowing that sometimes productive safety play means you failed in the front seven. But I’ve got no hesitation grabbing the reins and kick-starting the Elliott bandwagon.

Giddy up.

 

2016’s Irish A-to-Z
Josh Adams
Josh Barajas
Alex Bars
Asmar Bilal
Hunter Bivin
Grant Blankenship
Jonathan Bonner
Ian Book
Parker Boudreaux
Miles Boykin
Justin Brent
Devin Butler
Jimmy Byrne
Daniel Cage
Chase Claypool
Nick Coleman
Te’von Coney
Shaun Crawford
Scott Daly
Micah Dew-Treadway
Liam Eichenberg

 

Irish A-to-Z: Micah Dew-Treadway

M Dew Treadway 247
Photo courtesy of Irish 247
Leave a comment

When Micah Dew-Treadway arrived at Notre Dame, it was unclear what position he’d play on the defensive line. A redshirt fall and spring season under his belt, where Dew-Treadway will end up is still cloudy, but it does appear that he’s a contender to make an impact.

On a defensive line without Sheldon Day and Romeo Okwara—and a line a year away from losing Jarron Jones and Isaac Rochell—opportunity awaits. And as Keith Gilmore still sorts through his options at defensive end and tries his best to find his best four defensive linemen, Dew-Treadway’s sophomore season should be spent trying to make a pitch for some playing time in a rotation that’ll have to be deeper than last year’s.

An early-entry into college certainly helped Dew-Treadway. But with an eligibility clock that begins ticking come the fall, there’ll be an urgency to get on the field that maybe wasn’t felt before now for the Chicagoland prospect.

 

MICAH DEW-TREADWAY
6’4″, 300 lbs.
Sophomore, No. 97, DL

 

RECRUITING PROFILE

A Semper-Fi All-American, Dew-Treadway picked Notre Dame the summer before his senior season. He was a three-star prospect, with eight sacks and 12 TFLs as a senior, earning All-State first-team by the Champaign News-Gazette and All-Area by the Chicago Sun Times.

Had offers from Mississippi State, Kentucky, Maryland, Virginia, Wisconsin and others.

 

PLAYING CAREER

Freshman Season (2015): Did not see action, preserving a year of eligibility.

 

WHAT WE SAID LAST YEAR

Sometimes getting the obvious ones right is a good thing.

Barring a nightmare scenario, I don’t see Dew-Treadway on the field this season. And that’s not a bad thing. Watching highlights from his senior season of high school, you saw Dew-Treadway do some very good things, displaying the type of player who could very easily turn into a Jarron Jones type performer. But there are also the habits of a high schooler on display, things that will need to be drilled out of him.

Fifteen practices this spring won’t necessarily do that. Nor will a fall playing behind veterans Sheldon Day and Jones. But as the Irish rollover their interior depth, newcomers will need to step to the forefront. So throw Dew-Treadway into a promising group that’ll include Jay Hayes and Jon Bonner, developmental players who could be key to providing the next level of reinforcements.

 

FUTURE POTENTIAL

It’s still hard to figure out what Dew-Treadway’s ceiling could be. He projected as a developmental prospect as a recruit and did nothing to change that during his redshirt season. We saw glimpses of athleticism and potential productivity during spring drills, though that’s hardly a data point worth chasing.

With good size and ability, Dew-Treadway could be an effective player in the trenches, showcasing the type of athleticism Kelly talked about on Signing Day. Until then, we’ll have to see how the 2016 season plays out—and if Keith Gilmore trusts him to be more than just a guy behind a guy.

 

CRYSTAL BALL

Brian Kelly’s mid-June comments about Jarron Jones might actually help Dew-Treadway see the field. Because if the optimum amount of snaps for Jones is 35, that means there’s about 20 more for some lineman not named Daniel Cage or Jerry Tillery, and it’s anybody’s guess who will fill those snaps.

I tend to think those snaps could go to Jon Bonner first. But I wouldn’t be surprised if Dew-Treadway finds his way into those second-team developmental snaps this year, moving ahead of a veteran like Peter Mokwuah or converted offensive lineman John Montelus, with athleticism a key factor in all of this.

 

*First 5-yard penalty for falling out of order. 

 

2016’s Irish A-to-Z
Josh Adams
Josh Barajas
Alex Bars
Asmar Bilal
Hunter Bivin
Grant Blankenship
Jonathan Bonner
Ian Book
Parker Boudreaux
Miles Boykin
Justin Brent
Devin Butler
Jimmy Byrne
Daniel Cage
Chase Claypool
Nick Coleman
Te’von Coney
Shaun Crawford
Scott Daly
Micah Dew-Treadway
Liam Eichenberg

Irish A-to-Z: Liam Eichenberg

Liam Eichenberg 247
Irish 247 / Tom Loy
8 Comments

In freshman tackle Liam Eichenberg, Notre Dame has what looks like a future cornerstone on the offensive line. Now he’ll need to develop into the front-line player many hope he’ll become.

The good news? Harry Hiestand is on the case. Few offensive line coaches in college football do a better job of sculpting linemen, and in Eichenberg, the veteran Irish assistant has quite a piece of clay.

With Mike McGlinchey and Alex Bars slotted into the starting lineup heading into camp, Eichenberg will likely spend 2016 watching, learning, eating and lifting weights. But with the NFL beckoning for McGlinchey and the depth chart at tackle thin, there’s not much time to waste.

 

LIAM EICHENBERG
6’6″, 285 lbs.
Freshman, OL

 

RECRUITING PROFILE

Four-star, Top 100 recruit. Under Armour All-American. Max Preps first-team All-American. All-State Ohio first-team.

Eichenberg was one of the most sought after offensive tackle prospects in the country and he chose Notre Dame over Ohio State, Michigan, Florida State, Miami and a few dozen others.

 

FUTURE POTENTIAL

While Tommy Kraemer might be a better near-term prospect, there’s a “sky-is-the-limit” feel to Eichenberg after talking to people around the program. So while it’ll likely be Kraemer earning training camp praise from Kelly as the battle at right guard adds a new contender, giving Eichenberg the year to develop behind Mike McGlinchey and Alex Bars will be ideal.

That being said, there should be some urgency to this season for Eichenberg. Because it’ll take minutes for the college football world to notice how good of an NFL prospect McGlinchey is and a fifth-year might not be necessary for the Philadelphia native. And with little depth on the outside, an injury could change Eichenberg’s playing trajectory before a spring practice where he could be in the middle of a battle for playing time.

 

CRYSTAL BALL

A redshirt for Eichenberg.

Then a spring where he could be in a battle to replace Notre Dame’s next first-round left tackle. (It’s too early to predict if McGlinchey is heading to the NFL, but he certainly will have all eyes on him.)

Regardless, it’s a critically important season for Eichenberg on the practice field and in the weight room. Because there’s every reason to believe that the Irish will be reloading on the offensive line this recruiting cycle, and there’s be competition in the ranks from the moment he steps on campus.

2016’s Irish A-to-Z
Josh Adams
Josh Barajas
Alex Bars
Asmar Bilal
Hunter Bivin
Grant Blankenship
Jonathan Bonner
Ian Book
Parker Boudreaux
Miles Boykin
Justin Brent
Devin Butler
Jimmy Byrne
Daniel Cage
Chase Claypool
Nick Coleman
Te’von Coney
Shaun Crawford
Scott Daly

Texas CB Paulson Adebo commits to Notre Dame

Paulson Adebo Rivals
Rivals / Yahoo Sports
16 Comments

Notre Dame’s recruiting momentum continued through the weekend, with cornerback Paulson Adebo committing to Notre Dame. The Texas speedster, a 6-foot-1, 175-pound cornerback, made the decision official via social media on Monday afternoon.

Adebo had offers from Texas, USC, Oklahoma, Baylor, Oregon, Georgia and many others.

Winning another recruiting battle in the state of Texas is key, with Adebo getting onto campus in May for a Junior Day. That the Irish also landed a commitment from Adebo with an offer from Oklahoma also out there should help calm worries that the Lone Star State would be off limits without Kerry Cooks on staff, who was likely involved in Adebo’s recruitment for the Sooners. That’s two Texas prospects in this recruiting cycle, with quarterback Avery Davis very excited about the news of Adebo’s commitment.

Some schools see Adebo as a wide receiver, though Notre Dame has him penciled as an outside cornerback. His length and speed (Adebo has run the 200m in 21.4, according to a report from IrishSportsDaily) make him perfect for Brian VanGorder’s aggressive cover scheme.

Adebo makes 13 commitments in the 2017 cycle after a weekend flurry added pass rusher Jonathon MacCollister and receiver Jordan Pouncey. (Underclassman Markese Stepp also committed.) The run of four commitments in four days nearly matches the five recruits the Irish added in March, when David Adams, Avery Davis, Kurt Hinish, Drew White and Pete Werner all joined the 2017 class.

Adebo caught 41 passes for 730 yards and 11 touchdowns on offense while intercepting five passes during his junior season. Per MaxPreps, Mansfield went 12-3 in 2015, including a 6-0 record in Texas’s 6A level.

***